“…Over the open face of light some sober trails of vapour creep…”
Late August in Sweden, with warm mists moist around my calves and crisp cold air from the waist up… This was a memorable dawn.
I have loved breathing my way back into this scene.
as in Beethoven’s magnificent sonatas, I am reminded and reassured that with daybreak comes renewed light.
Well I have not quite finished, but my dear friends are definitely making an entrance. As soon as I started to insist on eye contact I felt their kindness reaching across the past and right into my being. It is very touching to feel such warmth …. It is palpable in my room and feels like a very nurturing ingredient in what was such a difficult chapter.
I wish I could thank them.
Ma Marriott (domestic bursar) and Ron (gardens) on the back row.
Bessy and Arthur Selwood (kitchens and maintenance) in the middle.
Mrs and Mr Gassons and paint-pot Pete (who told dreadful jokes) on the front row.
True friends, real people I could trust and felt at ease with.
The kind of people I could talk to…. who were normal and friendly. As well as my piano practice, they brought sunshine into my life.
Paint-pot-Pete used to make me laugh and Ron with his slow ways asked questions and made me feel calm. He knew all the plants.
Bessy and Arthur sometimes invited me for tea in their flat behind the library and big tall “Ma Marriott”, although she seemed a bit scary boomed “hello little Jenny” sometimes…. it made me feel safe somehow.
In the kitchens, Mr and Mrs G made a funny, kind hearted couple. Mr G was in charge of the enormous stinking dish washer while his wife served food from behind the hatch. She also stood by the door to clang the enormous ship’s bell at mealtimes.
Because my mother had been so ill, and my father worked long office hours in the family law firm,we had had a lot of help from people at home…a gardener, a home help, a decorator. They became part of my extended family and I loved them.
The sense of genuine warmth and care that came towards me from the domestic and maintenance staff were precious points of refuge and nurture. They made all the difference to me.
I wish I could thank them.
With a pencil I placed her specs back on her nose.
Just a tiny mark changed everything
Myopic and vulnerable without them
I could mourn with her
Take her in my arms, protect and console
But as soon as they went on
She became professorial before her time
and I felt an aversion
could see why she was shunned
and guilt on the heels of anger
swiftly sidelined compassion
How could I hate those rims and pebble lenses?
Shaped her from entirely innocent to prissy know-it-all?
I must have hated her for drawing to her the outpouring of viciousness that spewed from all the other angry little girls.
Little girls who in that old school photo looked just as dismayed by their abandonment.
It breaks my heart.
The forget-me-not blue on an old sash windows reminds me of love.
It was such a long time ago.
By contrast my grandson (just months younger now than I was then) is a picture of vibrant joy.
This has to be progress.
For most of my school life I wore a bewildered look.
This was my refuge. It was the closest I could get to the feeling of being safely wrapped up in mother’s old grey dressing gown. Music became the love that enfolded me in her absence. This painting, brings those sensations strongly to consciousness. How amazing that it is through art that I can express this, more so than with music.
She always encouraged me in this too, but it was not until I started this series, and now especially this one, that I have felt so connected through painting. It is a wonderful revelation.
I was just having tomatoes on toast with my friend Wendy and boasting about getting someone to pressure wash my paths. Wendy Chinese whispered it into a stunning first line and look what happened….a poem to complement the boarding school paintings of late.
Credits to Wendy Newman for imaginative misconstruction and thanks for the toast!
There must be a song here?
Thanks to all of you who have been leaving such warm, supportive messages. You are the ” hands at my back”.
“If I could pressure wash my past
What would it be
Which part would take the blast
Would it be me
If I could pressure wash the past
Prise off the surface dirt of years
But would it hurt
And what would it bare beneath the layers
and layers of compressed pain and hurt
The raw edge of things unsaid untold
The weeping of uprooted souls
The trampled bloom of innocence
Yes scrape away the past but do not leave me bare
to face myself without your hand
with nothing at my back
to hold me safe
to bring me home
to wash it clean
to catch my tears
to meet my fears
and let them go their way
No pressure in the past
Just wash it all away”